Your guide to the Oneworld airline alliance

From points and perks through to partners and more, here's what you need to know about the Oneworld alliance.

By Brandon Loo, July 31 2020
Your guide to the Oneworld airline alliance

Oneworld isn't the largest of the global airline alliances, but it's the default choice of most Australians due to the membership of Qantas, alongside the likes of Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways.

The Oneworld roster now stands at 13 airlines, and will grow to 14 in December 2020 when Alaska Airlines comes on boardThose airlines nominally have a combined reach of 1,100 airports across 180 countries and territories.

With the goal of streamlining frequent flyer benefits for passengers and making connections more seamless when travelling across its member airlines, here's what you need to know about the Oneworld alliance.

Who are the Oneworld member airlines?

At the time of writing there are 13 full Oneworld member airlines, joined by the alliance's first Oneworld Connect partner, and a collection of affiliates on top.

Here's a list of the full Oneworld member airlines, and those that soon will be:

  • Alaska Airlines (set to join in 2020, based in the USA)
  • American Airlines (based in the USA)
  • British Airways (based in the UK)
  • Cathay Pacific (based in Hong Kong)
  • Finnair (based in Finland)
  • Iberia (based in Spain)
  • Japan Airlines (based in Japan)
  • Malaysia Airlines (based in Malaysia)
  • Qantas (based in Australia)
  • Qatar Airways (based in Qatar)
  • Royal Air Maroc (based in Morocco)
  • Royal Jordanian (based in Jordan)
  • S7 Airlines (based in Russia)
  • SriLankan Airlines (based in Sri Lanka)

Fiji Airways is the alliance's first – and currently, only – Oneworld Connect member: a concept which we'll explore later in this guide.

(There's also been speculation that Ireland's Aer Lingus, which is owned by the same parent company as British Airways and Iberia, could also become a Oneworld or Oneworld Connect member.)

By virtue of their Oneworld or Oneworld Connect membership, all of the carriers listed above are Qantas partner airlines.

Qantas also maintains partnerships with airlines outside of the alliance, such as with China Eastern and Emirates – but these are separate to Qantas' Oneworld affiliations.

Who are the Oneworld member affiliate airlines?

Affiliate members of Oneworld are typically the regional arms or other offshoots of the alliance's full members. In most cases, standard Oneworld benefits apply when travelling on an affiliate member, in the same way as when travelling with a full Oneworld alliance airline.

Current Oneworld affiliate airlines include:

  • American Eagle (affiliated with American Airlines)
  • BA Cityflyer, Comair and Sun-Air (affiliated with British Airways)
  • Cathay Dragon (affiliated with Cathay Pacific)
  • Globus Airlines (affiliated with S7 Airlines)
  • Nordic Regional Airlines (affiliated with Finnair)
  • Iberia Express and Iberia Regional Air Nostrum (affiliated with Iberia)
  • J-Air and Japan Transocean Air (affiliated with Japan Airlines)
  • QantasLink (affiliated with Qantas)
  • Royal Air Maroc Express (affiliated with Royal Air Maroc)

Alaska Airlines' regional arm Horizon Air and its regional partner SkyWest Airlines will also become Oneworld affiliate members in December 2020.

However, just because an airline is owned and operated by a full Oneworld member doesn't necessarily mean it will be an Oneworld affiliate. For example, while the Qantas Group owns Jetstar and Jetstar Asia, those aren't considered as Oneworld affiliates.

What are the Oneworld frequent flyer tiers?

As each Oneworld airline operates its own frequent flyer program, Oneworld has three standardised alliance-wide tiers, which help to standardise benefits when a member from one airline travels with another.

These three tiers are Oneworld Ruby, Oneworld Sapphire and Oneworld Emerald. Here's how the status tiers of several popular frequent flyer programs align with the Oneworld levels:

Program / Oneworld Tier Oneworld Ruby Oneworld Sapphire Oneworld Emerald
Qantas Frequent Flyer Silver Gold Platinum, Platinum One, Chairman's Lounge
American Airlines AAdvantage Gold Platinum, Platinum Pro Executive Platinum, ConciergeKey
British Airways Executive Club Bronze Silver Gold, Premier
Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club Silver Gold Diamond, Diamond Plus, Diamond Invitation
Qatar Airways Privilege Club Silver Gold Platinum

To see how the tiers align for other member airlines, head to the Oneworld website and choose your airline from the drop-down menu on the homepage.

An example of how Iberia's tiers align with Oneworld's.
An example of how Iberia's tiers align with Oneworld's.

Oneworld status is automatically awarded when reaching the equivalent status tier with your main airline.

For example, if you reach Qantas Platinum membership, you will also be a Oneworld Emerald frequent flyer for the duration of your Platinum membership.

This means that beyond the core benefits of your status when flying with Qantas and its other partners, you'll also enjoy many of those same key benefits when flying with all other Oneworld member airlines, in any class of travel.

The colour of the gemstone(s) under the Oneworld logo is a handy way to see which benefits apply to you at that airport.
The colour of the gemstone(s) under the Oneworld logo is a handy way to see which benefits apply to you at that airport.

Benefits of Oneworld Ruby

Oneworld Ruby is the 'silver'-level tier for emerging frequent flyers, and offers a few time-saving benefits to get you started, without the full suite of perks as at the higher tiers.

These frequent flyers have access to business class priority check-in counters across the Oneworld alliance, as well as improved seat selection choices where airlines offer this benefit, and priority over non-frequent flyers when on flight waitlists or travelling standby.

Benefits of Oneworld Sapphire

Oneworld Sapphire is the 'gold'-level tier for frequent flyers, often considered the 'sweet spot' of the three, as Sapphire is your ticket to airport lounge access and more.

In addition to the Ruby benefits above, Oneworld Sapphire grants access to most Oneworld airline business class lounges before eligible flights, plus priority boarding and luggage handling.

Some exceptions apply, such as to Qatar Airways' Premium Lounges which are only for passengers travelling in business class (or first class), but in these instances, access to an alternative lounge remains available.

Baggage allowances are boosted as well, although this depends on the airline you're travelling with and the baggage allowance that was already included with your ticket by default.

In some instances, you'll be able to pack a heavier suitcase or travel with an extra bag, but if your baggage allowance was already generous, there may be little or no improvement.

Benefits of Oneworld Emerald

For true high flyers, Oneworld Emerald is the card to hold as it grants some privileges normally reserved for first class passengers when flying with Oneworld member airlines, even in economy.

This starts with access to first class check-in counters and first class lounges, where available. 'Fast Lane' processing means you can speed through the formalities at select airports, while your luggage similarly gets the priority treatment.

Oneworld Emerald status is the key to first class lounge access before any flights, even in economy or business class.
Oneworld Emerald status is the key to first class lounge access before any flights, even in economy or business class.

Baggage allowances are increased by 20kg across the board under weight-based limits, or by one additional bag for 'piece' allowances.

You'll also get the plum pick of seats that may not be available to other travellers before online check-in opens.

As always, there are a few exceptions to be aware of. These again include Qatar Airways' various Premium Lounges around the world, which are limited to business and first class ticket holders only.

Similar situations exist with British Airways' Concorde Room (reserved for BA first class flyers only) and Flagship First Dining facilities in American Airlines lounges, reserved for AA's own first class passengers only.

Most airline arrivals lounges are also excluded from Oneworld agreements.

Read on: Why some frequent flyers are shut out from Oneworld lounges

Earning and redeeming frequent flyer points in Oneworld

There isn't a 'global' Oneworld rewards program, so you can instead earn frequent flyer points and status credits in your preferred airline program, even when flying on other Oneworld airlines. The same is true when using points.

Earning frequent flyer points across Oneworld

Just because you're flying with Cathay Pacific, for example, doesn't mean you need to be a member of Cathay Pacific's Asia Miles and Marco Polo Club frequent flyer programs: you could choose to earn Qantas Points instead.

For example, let's say you've booked a Cathay Pacific business class ticket from Hong Kong to London, and whacked your Qantas Frequent Flyer number into the booking.

Even though you're not flying with Qantas, or even to or from Australia, you could still earn 7,400 Qantas Points plus 120 status credits from the one-way flight.

 

Example earn of Qantas Points and status credits when flying a wholly-Cathay Pacific itinerary.
Example earn of Qantas Points and status credits when flying a wholly-Cathay Pacific itinerary.

Exceptions always apply, and you may need to dig deep to find them.

For example, take a look at Qatar Airways' page about earning rewards on Qantas flight. Under 'Earn Qmiles and Qpoints', it states: "accrual on Qantas domestic flights are only eligible when they are in conjunction with an international flight marketed by either Qantas or Qatar Airways on the same ticket."

Some fare types may not earn frequent flyer points and status credits with any airline, while others may only earn these with some airlines.

This is common when booking flights in economy class, particularly on the less-flexible and more affordable ticket types.

Upgrading flights with frequent flyer points across Oneworld

For the most part, it's not possible to use the frequent flyer points or miles you've earned in one frequent flyer program to upgrade on a different airline.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, largely because two airlines have worked together to make this possible, rather than being an alliance-wide rule.

Oneworld may expand its alliance-wide upgrade policies in the future, but this has not yet been enacted.

Read more: Oneworld mulls points-based upgrades across all member airlines

Using frequent flyer points for flights across Oneworld

Although upgrades are usually off the cards, frequent flyer points earned in a Oneworld member airline's own program can be used to book reward flights on any other Oneworld airline, in any available cabin class.

For example, you can earn Qantas Points in Australia, and then use those points to book flights on the other Oneworld member and affiliate airlines, such as British Airways and Cathay Pacific:

It's easy to use points from a Oneworld member airline program on other Oneworld member airline flights.
It's easy to use points from a Oneworld member airline program on other Oneworld member airline flights.

What is Oneworld Connect?

Oneworld Connect is a relatively new membership system for smaller airlines to become attached to the alliance in a limited capacity, and offer select benefits to all Oneworld frequent flyers.

It's similar to the Star Alliance 'Connecting Partners' concept, for those familiar with Oneworld's largest rival.

Candidates for Oneworld Connect must be sponsored by Oneworld full member airlines, and passengers of those sponsoring airlines will get a wider breadth of perks when flying the Oneworld Connect partner.

Summary of benefits available when flying Fiji Airways as a Oneworld passenger.. Oneworld
Summary of benefits available when flying Fiji Airways as a Oneworld passenger.
Oneworld

Fiji Airways in Oneworld Connect

Currently, the only Oneworld Connect member is Fiji Airways, sponsored by American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.

On those Fiji Airways flights, all Oneworld Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald members will receive priority check-in, with Sapphires and Emeralds also entitled to priority boarding.

But frequent flyers with status from those four sponsoring airlines will get even more benefits when flying Fiji Airways, such as the ability to earn and redeem points, earn status credits, through-check tickets and luggage between connecting flights, and access to select lounges worldwide.

To see how the lounge access rules differ in this case, head to the Fiji Airways Oneworld Connect page and choose your frequent flyer membership type from the drop-down menu under 'Lounge Access'.

https://www.oneworld.com/members/fiji-airways
https://www.oneworld.com/members/fiji-airways

Learn more: Oneworld Connect benefits for Qantas flyers on Fiji Airways

As an alliance, Oneworld does not yet operate any own-brand lounges, although this is set to change in the future – in late 2019, Oneworld announced its intention to open the first Oneworld-branded shared lounge in Moscow.

Also read: What Alaska Airlines joining Oneworld means for Qantas flyers

Brandon Loo

Based in Perth, Brandon enjoys tucking into local delicacies, discovering new cocktails, and making aeroplane food look good on camera.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 490

How Royal Air Maroc ever made the oneworld fold beats me!

Its in-flight soft and hard product are average at best. As for their home base ground/lounge experience it's abysmal!


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